Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The False Prince

by Jennifer Nielsen
Scholastic Press | 2012
Buy it here!
And pre-order the 2nd in the trilogy!

Sage is an orphan, stealing to fill his belly and keep himself going for another day at the orphanage where he'll soon be put out for turning fifteen. One day he steals a roast, and when he's caught, a mysterious stranger pays off the merchant and takes Sage away. Along with two other boys, Rodan and Tobias, Sage is trained as part of an intricate plot to take over the throne of Carthya. One of the boys will pose as Prince Jaron, lost four years ago when pirates overtook the ship he was on. Each boy has attributes that make him a good choice, and they must vie to be chosen, or die.

I favor realism. I stay away from most books involving princes, princesses, and castles. I am rarely impressed by medieval-like world-building, even when those fantasy fans around me are doing a jig with glee. This book is a rare exception (along with The Graceling Realm and a few select others). Nielsen builds her world carefully, to be sure, but also in a realistic manner. For me, this is the mark of an excellent fantasy novel.

What marks The False Prince as an excellent book, regardless of genre, is the way in which the plot and characters are so deeply created. I feel like if Sage turned up tonight in my living room, I would know how to have a discussion with him. And I'd ask him what happened that time when he was in Conner's estate's tunnel, and how on earth he ever got the knife back to the kitchen when he was bleeding so much. That's how awesome the plot is.

This is the first in a planned trilogy, and the second is coming out in March. I'll be first in line to read it. You should be second.

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